Letter from America

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Tayo Balogun’s Column

Its been difficult doing anything. Your head, no, your brain is frozen. And your fingers anytime you bring them out of the gloves are numb. You want to write but you can’t bring yourself to. It’s a clear-cut case of disobedience to constituted authority. More like a soldier refusing to carry out an officer’s order. It is like your brain and your hands are on AWOL leaving your mind to fret about being able to meet schedules. Repeatedly deadlines are missed. Today becomes tomorrow. And tomorrow transmutes into another tomorrow… That is how it has been for me ever since I got here. In about three weeks (just because I am fighting the intemperate cold weather) I have almost finished the giant VSO brandy bottle my son bought for me on Thanksgiving Day.

Today, I am girding my loins and shaming the -3° cold to get this piece across. I will not come to America and allow myself to be cowed when I have survived the antics of misgovernment in my country. So how has it been since I got here? The Diasporans want to know what it was like at home. They want to know if it will be possible for Atiku Abubakar to defeat incumbent Muhammadu Buhari next year. My Ghanaian taxi (he has upgraded to Uber) driver friend is no longer as loquacious as he used to be. He now regards the Super Eagles as superior to his Black Stars even when he is quick to chip in that their President is better than our Buhari. It does appear that Nigerians here have lost substantial interest in our sports. They seem to have more interest in politics. In the four weeks I have spent I have had more time to situate things happening to my mind. Now I no longer worry about my sanity or wonder if it is possible for everyone else to be mad and only me being sane. Coming to America has cleared my mind.

I spend a lot of my time watching television. Particularly Channels Television where I watched news about Nigeria daily. And CNN where my sensibilities as a journalist are so assaulted that I begin to wonder if the western media still have anything to offer us in terms of balance and focus. And of course, I have regularly kept touch with home through the social media. So much so that I think I know a little more about our country than most people at home. For instance, I got to know that Bendel Insurance borrowed from the past to defeat 3SC by a penalty scored in the 20th minute of added time.

More pleasantly, I know that after a faulty first match, our Super Falcons went on to win the African Women’s Nations Cup. Its like Cameroon, Ghana and the Banyana Banyana (South Africa) teams have to wait some more years to catch up. But our girls need to know that they have what it takes to compete valiantly at the global level.

I also got to know that finally the National Sports Festival held in Abuja. And that Delta State, the perennial winners again topped the medals table. The disappointing thing about the Festival was that reports indicated that this version was worst than the one hosted in Lagos about six years ago. The point to be made is that the decay pervading our country has expectedly spread to our sport!!!

It’s curious why I love our country more each time I step out of it. And I get saddened that we are unaware of the potential for greatness that abounds in our nation. We have the best collection of gifted football players in the world yet our football is not rated in the first ten in the world. We once had world famous Dick Tiger, Rafiu King Joe, Hogan Kid Bassey, and Obisia Nwankpa. Now, we have no one. We have tremendous natural resources that should make us one of the richest countries in the world yet we remain on of the poorest. We have perhaps one of the best educated minds in the world yet we are being ruled by simpletons whose goals are to take us back to the dark ages.

Whenever I step out of Nigeria I wonder why we must put up our fourth best team for a match we must win. This view was put more poignantly by an Ivorian/Burkinabe ex-footballer residing temporarily here in America. According to him: “’Nigeria disappointed me. I started playing soccer because your country won soccer gold at the Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games. Every African was proud of the feat of the Dream Team. But today, where is Nigeria in (global) football? If your country moves, Africa moves. But now, You sleep, so Africa is sleeping. Oh! Nigeria must wake up to take her place among the leaders and show the light to the rest of us Africans.”

But it’s not all doom and gloom here. I am enjoying, rolling specially with my grandchildren who I hope will belong to a better Nigeria. A Nigeria achieving its potential not only in sports but in all aspects of our life as a nation. Surely, that cannot be too difficult. Or is it?